Just last month in reading the Cincinnati Enquirer I came to better appreciate the feeling of the “Ol Bait and Switch.” It was reported that the city was facing a budget shortfall of $1.2 million on the streetcar. What was proposed, and approved by city council was upping the already astronomical parking ticket fees to shore up the difference.

As a local business owner in the city it’s always been a point of pride that we stay downtown. We continue to see positive things happening, from the general resurgence in Over-the-Rhine and the Banks to the soon-be-happening changes in Newport and new concert venues. Being downtown is also valuable when attracting creative talent since we’re so close to the action, the arts and the culture. It’s been my assumption that having a streetcar only adds to that value for the “creative class.”

I hate to admit this, but I pay roughly $500 a year or more in parking ticket fees to the city because, well, I’m lazy. If I have any sliver of justification, it’s that I consider this the price of doing business downtown, going in and out of meetings daily with businesses. I am usually running just a little late making my stay longer than what I have paid for at the meter.

Being a bit late can hurt quite a bit, though, for the folks who come from across the region to our company headquarters for committee meetings. It’s not uncommon to hear stories about being late by just 10 minutes and getting stuck with a $55 parking ticket from one of these non-city parking enforcement employees. I can only assume they are commission based or get bonuses for the numbers they pull in. I can’t blame them for being proactive—we all have to make a buck, right?

Where I cry foul is this switch to the parking ticket additional fees to cover the streetcar. The streetcar obviously is not hitting its projected rider rate—anyone who drives downtown can attest to seeing many where the only rider is the driver upfront. This budget shortfall is to now fall on the backs of the businesses that were promised they would burgeon with this new form of transportation.

And with this being the Best Schools issue, I want to put this parking debacle in terms of how it affects our region’s educational institutions. Cincinnati Public Schools was the nation's first large school district to offer lunches to students, starting in 1898. It serves 5.5 million lunches and 3 million breakfasts annually, including citywide summer programs. This program is award winning and serves the common good, more than I confidently can say the streetcar does. According to CPS, an elementary lunch costs $1.75. This $1.2 million shortfall amount could supply 685,714 lunches.

To add insult to injury, the city’s reported backlog of unpaid parking tickets in the last five years is $10.3 million and there is little effort currently in place to win back these dollars. To recover this amount would cover CPS lunches for roughly a year.

My father used to say that good decisions only get better. He also used to say that bad decisions only get worse. Maybe we as a city still have some lessons to learn.